Vladimir Alvino Guerrero
(Miqueas; Vladdy; Vlad the Impaler)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 218 lb.
- Debut September 19, 1996
- Final Game September 28, 2011
- Born February 9, 1975 in Nizao, Peravia, D.R.
According to the similarity scores method, the most similar player to Vladimir Guerrero at age 29 was Willie Mays. All ten on the most similar list were Hall of Famers except for two players who were not yet eligible, Manny Ramirez and Juan Gonzalez. However, it was learned in 2009 that Guerrero was actually one year older than thought, having been born in 1975 and not 1976, making his career slightly less impressive.
His signing by the Expos is the stuff of legend. He showed up at an open tryout in the Dominican Republic in civilian clothes (his family was too poor for him to afford playing gear) and took a few swings of the bat before pulling a muscle running down the first base line. Those few swings were enough for Expos scout Arturo DeFreites to offer him a contract, in conjunction with Fred Ferreira, the team's director of Latin American scouting, and he joined the organization on March 1, 1993. The Expos weren't quite sure what to do with the very raw prospect at first and tried him at various positions, including having him do some pitching in the Dominican Summer League to take advantage of his tremendous right arm. They settled on making him an outfielder, and in 1994 he had an amazing season for the DSL Expos, hitting .424 with 11 doubles and 12 homers in 25 games. Obviously too strong for the competition, he was brought to the United States and was assigned to the GCL Expos, where he hit .314. After two outstanding seasons in the minor leagues, including being named the Minor League Player of the Year by the Sporting News for his production with the West Palm Beach Expos and Harrisburg Senators in 1996, he was brought up to the major leagues in September. The Expos were in the middle of a race for the wild card spot, but he was simply too impressive to sit on the bench, and manager Felipe Alou inserted him in the starting line-up in right field for a key series against the Atlanta Braves with the season winding down and the postseason berth still in play. He hit his first big league homer in one of those games, on September 21st off Mark Wohlers in the 9th inning of a 5-4 loss. He hit only .198 in 27 at-bats however, and the Expos fell just shy of the postseason.
In spring training of 1997, he so impressed management that they decided to trade another top outfield prospect, Cliff Floyd, in order to open up a spot for him. The trade allowed the Expos to acquire Dustin Hermanson from the Florida Marlins, and he was their best pitcher over the next few seasons, but it's still left to wonder how a tandem of Guerrero and Floyd in the middle of the batting order could have sown fear in the opposition. He was injured for a few stretches in 1997 and as a result only played 90 games, but he hit .302 with 22 doubles and 11 homers. His breakthrough season came in 1998 when he hit .324 with 37 doubles and a 38 homers, scoring 108 runs and driving in 109 while hitting in the middle of a rather weak line-up, as the Expos finished trading away their few remaining veteran stars that season. Thus, his most productive seasons coincided with some of the worst years in Expos history. In 2002 however, the Expos played above .500 after having been slated for contraction in the off-season, and he was a one-man wrecking crew, contributing a National League leading 206 hits, 27 doubles, 39 homers and 40 stolen bases. Felipe Alou batted him lead-off in the last game of the season in the hope of having him hit a 40th homer, but he fell short (the previous day, he had hit a ball that landed on top of the center field fence at Stade Olympique but which bounced back on the field). He was then limited to 112 games in 2003, and had he been fully healthy, it's possible the Expos could have been that year's Cinderella story, and not the Marlins, who went on to win the 2003 World Series: the two teams were tied for the wild card spot on August 28th, and the Fish pulled away in September with the Expos forced to play a number of "home" games in Puerto Rico while unable to bring up reinforcements from the minors. Had Vladimir been fully healthy that season, they may have headed into September well ahead of the Floridians, and the result might have been a whole lot different. Still he hit for the cycle against the New York Mets in front of hometown fans on September 14th, then in the season's final game against the Cincinnati Reds on September 28th, he walked and scored and then singled in his first two plate appearances of the game before being removed for pinch-runner Endy Chavez in the 3rd inning. That was the end of his career as a member of the Expos.
Although Guerrero never led the league in batting average, home runs or RBI, he was the 2004 American League MVP and was a nine-time All-Star. He is the Montreal Expos' career leader for home runs with 234, batting average (.323) and slugging percentage (.588). He also hit more home runs than anyone at Stade Olympique, 126. He was also the Expos/Washington Nationals franchise leader for home runs until passed by Ryan Zimmerman in 2017. He played for the Expos from his major league debut in 1996 until 2003, after which he left as a free agent and signed with the Anaheim Angels. He would have wanted to stay put in Montreal, but Major League Baseball, which owned the Expos at the time, prevented GM Omar Minaya from making him a contract offer, or even offering him salary arbitration, in fear that he would accept. As a result, the Expos did not even receive a draft pick as compensation when he left the team. His MVP Award came in his first season with the Angels.
Guerrero was to play for the Dominican Republic in the 2006 World Baseball Classic but lost three cousins in an auto accident right before the games and went on bereavement leave; ageless Luis Polonia took his roster spot and led the Dominican team in average. He pulled out of the Dominican team's roster in 2009 and as a result never played for his country in spite of being one of its greatest players ever.
He won the 2007 Home Run Derby, beating Alex Rios in the finals. In the 2009 opening night game, Guerrero had his 19th career opening day RBI, breaking the record he had shared with Frank Robinson and Jeff Kent. On September 26, 2011, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, he collected his 2,586th career hit to pass Julio Franco for first place on the all-time list for players born in the Dominican Republic. However, it had taken Guerrero 400 fewer games than Franco to gather as many hits. He finished his career with 2590, just ahead of Franco and Manny Ramirez (2574); Adrian Beltre has since passed him.
Guerrero was the regular DH for the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, hitting .290 in 145 games, with 30 doubles, but only 13 homers and 63 RBI in spite of hitting out of the heart of the line-up all year. Because of concern over his declining power and speed, and inability to play the outfield on a regular basis anymore, no team showed a serious interest in his services when he became a free agent after the season. He did not attend spring training, instead working out in his native Dominican Republic, as he was unwilling to retire just yet. The Arizona Diamondbacks were the first team to show interest, when GM Josh Towers went to see him work out as he traveled to the DR in early May. However, it was with the Toronto Blue Jays that Vlad signed a minor league contract, on May 10, 2012. Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos dampened expectations about the signing, explaining that he would be evaluated in an extended spring training program in Dunedin, FL, before joining one of the club's minor league teams should all go well during the review. Only then would the Jays consider adding him to their roster. However, the first reports out of Dunedin about Vlad's condition were very positive, making a return to the big leagues with the Blue Jays seem almost certain. Indeed, he went 9 for 20 with 4 homers in a brief stint with the Class A Dunedin Blue Jays to earn a quick promotion to the AAA Las Vegas 51s on June 1st. Ten days later, Vlad felt he was ready to play in the major leagues and issued the Jays an ultimatum: promote me or release me. Not ready to bring him up to Toronto immediately, the Jays complied by releasing him on June 11th and he was unable to find another team willing to bite.
In 2013, Vladimir signed a contract with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League on April 4th, hoping to convince another major league team to give him a shot if he showed he could still crush the ball. However, that plan did not work out as he never officially joined the team. On September 15th, recognizing the inevitable, he officially announced his retirement from baseball. On March 31, 2014, the Angels signed him to a one-day contract in order that he could officially retire as an Angel, and asked him to throw the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day. Don Baylor, back as an Angels coach after many years spent in other organizations, was asked to catch him, given that at the time, the two were the only Angels player ever to win an MVP Award (Mike Trout would join them at the end of the season). However, Baylor bent his leg awkwardly to catch Vlad's slow toss towards home; he somehow managed to break his femur and had to be evacuated to a local hospital.
Vladimir was noted for being one the freest swingers around, able to hit balls solidly even if they were way outside the strike zone. He often joked that the only way to get him out was to throw the ball right down the middle of the plate. His walk totals would have been extremely low, were it not for the large number of intentional walks he would receive year after year. However, in spite of his free-swinging ways, his OBP was usually pretty good, because his batting average was so high. He played baseball with a pure joy rarely seen at the major league level. This sometimes led to mistakes, like being caught stealing a lot more than one would have liked, or unleashing tremendous throws that were spectacular and made the crowd buzz, but would result in a runner taking an extra base. Still, his managers understood that he was a natural whom it was better not to attempt to tame. He explained that his unusual approach to hitting came from playing a type of stickball game when he was a kid, in which the only way to succeed was to swing at bad pitches, so it came naturally to him. He was very uncomfortable around the media, given his lack of formal education, and did not attempt to learn English (or French when he was in Montreal). Some reporters did not like that, as he was not one to provide good copy, but fans did not mind. He was so expressive on the field that he did not need to talk to the press to connect with them. "He's worth the price of admission by himself" was a typical comment from fans. One of the reasons he liked Montreal was that the fans there respected his privacy outside the field, and he could lead a quiet life with his mother moving in and cooking for him, without having to take on any public relations obligations.
Vladimir is the brother of Wilton Guerrero and the father of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.. Vlad and Wilton were teammates with the Expos for a few years. Two other brothers, Eleazar Guerrero and Julio Cesar Guerrero, signed professional contracts. OF Gabriel Guerrero, Eleazar's son, reached the majors in 2018. Two other nephews, Jose Guerrero and Gregory Guerrero, sons of sister Aurelia, are also playing in the minor leagues. Gabriel's younger brother, Josue Guerrero, began playing in the minors in 2017. Vladimir invested some his baseball earnings to set up a Guerrero Family Baseball Academy in his home country, which Wilton is running.
In his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, in 2017, he came very close to gaining admittance, being named on 317 of 442 ballots and falling 15 votes shy of the 75% threshold needed. Such a strong first-year showing made it a foregone conclusion that he would be elected in short order, however. A few weeks after those results were announced, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as part of its 2017 class. In the 2018 Hall of Fame Election, Vladimir cleared the 75% threshold easily, being named 92.9% of the ballots cast to become the third player form the D.R. to gain election to Cooperstown, after Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez. He chose to wear the Angels' cap on his plaque in Cooperstown, becoming the first ever inductee to do so.
- 1996 The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year, West Palm Beach Expos, Florida State League & Harrisburg Senators, Eastern League
- 1996 Player of the Year Eastern League Harrisburg Senators
- 9-time All-Star (1999-2002, 2004-2007 & 2010)
- AL MVP (2004)
- 8-time Silver Slugger Award Winner (1999/NL, 2000/NL, 2002/NL, 2004-2007/AL & 2010/AL-DH)
- AL Runs Scored Leader (2004)
- NL Hits Leader (2002)
- 2-time League Total Bases Leader (2002/NL & 2004/AL)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 12 (1998-2008 & 2010)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1998-2002 & 2004-2006)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 2 (1999 & 2000)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 10 (1998-2002, 2004-2007 & 2010)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 6 (1998-2002 & 2004)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 4 (1998, 2002, 2004 & 2006)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2018
|Alex Rodriguez||Vladimir Guerrero||Alex Rodriguez|
- David Adler: "Vlad's career built solid case for Cooperstown: Guerrero's traditional, advanced stats place him among all-time greats", mlb.com, January 7, 2017. 
- Ted Berg: "How a Dominican stickball game helped Vladimir Guerrero toward his Hall of Fame career", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, January 24, 2018. 
- Frédéric Daigle: "Vladimir Guerrero admis au Temple de la renommée", La Presse, January 24, 2018. 
- Danny Gallagher: "Expo turns heads", in Remembering the Montreal Expos, Scoop Press, Toronto, ON, 2005, pp. 269-275.
- Maria Guardado: "Vlad to join Hall; his 'entire country is celebrating': Guerrero receives 92.9 percent of vote in second year on ballot", mlb.com, January 24, 2018. 
- Norm King: "Vlad Impales His 40th; October 2, 1999: Montreal Expos 13, Philadelphia Phillies 3 At Veterans Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 127-129. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6
- Doug Miller: "Vlad narrowly misses first-ballot HOF election: Slugger receives 71.7 percent of BBWAA vote", mlb.com, January 18, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Hall of Fame countdown: Vladimir Guerrero won't fall short again", mlb.com, January 19, 2018. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "As Vladimir Guerrero eyes Hall of Fame, his family tree strengthens in Dominican", USA Today Sports' February 11, 2016. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Hall of Fame case: Vladimir Guerrero has the numbers to match his flair", USA Today Sports, December 29, 2016. 
- Joe Posnanski: "'Impossibly wonderful' Vlad likely to enter Hall: Slugger played with joy, desperation at remarkable level", mlb.com, January 5, 2018. 
- Lyle Spencer: "Vlad exited quietly but deserves entrance to Hall: Gaudy career numbers only part of story for respected slugger", USA Today, September 16, 2013. 
- T.R. Sullivan: "Vlad left Hall-worthy mark in 1 year with Texas: Guerrero helped Rangers reach their first World Series in 2010", mlb.com, January 22, 2018. 
- Adam J. Ulrey: "Guerrero Hits for the Cycle; September 14, 2003: Montreal Expos 7, New York Mets 3 At Olympic Stadium", in Norm King, ed.: Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2016, pp. 138-139. ISBN 978-1-943816-15-6